The Florida Panthers will interview Bob Boughner for their vacant head coaching position according to Pierre LeBrun of TSN. The team was given permission to talk to Boughner weeks ago, but will hold the interview at some point this week. The Panthers have been linked to Michel Therrien and Jim Montgomery in the past as well as assistants who may be still working in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the expansion draft is set to headline a busy NHL offseason, there are still several other storylines for each team in the months ahead. Here is a closer look at what lies ahead for the Florida Panthers.
After a surprising postseason run in 2015-16, the Panthers removed Dale Tallon from the GM post with Tom Rowe taking over. He signed several core players to long-term extensions but the team failed to perform to expectations and Gerard Gallant was let go as head coach before long with Rowe taking over there as well. The struggles continued and Rowe was relieved of both duties after the season (although he remains with the organization). The reins have been handed back to Tallon after a year of wackiness; here’s what’s on the docket for Florida this offseason.
Hire A Coach
The obvious task is to name a new bench boss to take over from Rowe. Tallon has cast a wide net and has been very thorough so far. Among those known to have interviewed are former Canadiens coach Michel Therrien and Denver (NCAA) coach Jim Montgomery who are believed to have gone through a couple of interviews. The team reportedly has interest in Washington associate coach Todd Reirden as well while Nashville assistant Phil Housley has also been suggested and there are likely others that are flying under the radar at the moment.
While there is no stated timetable to make this hire, presumably Tallon will look to get this wrapped up within the next two to three weeks. It’s reasonable to think that the new coach will want input on any potential moves and the expansion draft (which is likely to really kick start the offseason movement) is now less than a month away.
Although he fell well short of the 66 points he put up a year ago, Jaromir Jagr still had a fairly productive season, picking up 46 points (16-30-46) while playing in every game. Not too shabby for someone who turned 45 back in February. Jagr is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July and will likely be headed for another one year contract; he has stated that he intends to plan in 2017-18.
However, he is really starting to slow down and we’re seeing more and more how important speed is in the current NHL. If the Panthers are looking to play an up-tempo style, Jagr may not be the best fit for them.
If there is mutual interest in a return, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jagr take a bit of a pay cut. He earned a base salary of $4MM this season while hitting another $1.5MM in games played incentives. Florida already has a little over $60MM committed to 16 players for next year and they haven’t been a team that has typically spent to the ceiling so slotting him in for another $5.5MM doesn’t seem like a likely scenario at this time.
Reshape The Defense
Last summer, the Panthers transitioned into a team that relied heavily on analytics and in particular, they looked to rebuild their blueline with more emphasis on mobility and puck possession. While the individual acquisitions made sense at the time, the unit as a whole really failed to live up to expectations, especially at the defensive end.
While it’s unlikely that Tallon will completely tear apart the defense corps, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him try to bring in more of a prototypical stay-at-home player to give at least one of the pairings a new look. Failing that, adding some grit to their blueliners is another potential move to change things up. However, given their cap situation, they’re probably not going to be looking at the higher-end free agents (or possible trade acquisitions). Any moves made will likely come out as tweaks but that coupled with a new coach may be enough to turn around what is a quality unit, at least on paper. Given that they allowed 34 more goals this year than last, it may go a long way towards getting them back into the playoff picture as well.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Florida Panthers had been rumored to be interested in several still-working assistant coaches in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and one name has finally come out. Washington Capitals’ associate coach Todd Reirden, whose team was eliminated just five days ago, will interview for the head coaching job in Florida, and is also a candidate for the job in Buffalo according to Frank Seravalli of TSN.
Despite Seravalli’s inclusion of Buffalo, it would be surprising to see the Sabres hire a coach so closely tied to the recently fired Dan Bylsma. Reirden worked with Bylsma in Wilkes-Barre Scranton and then in Pittsburgh after Byslma was promoted in the Pittsburgh system, only splitting apart in 2013-14. While it’s obviously not impossible, bringing in such a similar coach—or at least one with such a connected background—may be a mistake by the Sabres.
Florida seems much more likely as a destination for the associate coach, who was given that promotion this year when he took the reins in training camp for the Capitals while Barry Trotz was off at the World Cup with Team Canada. Reirden works mostly with the defense of the Capitals, who took big strides in the regular season only to be exposed somewhat in the playoffs against Pittsburgh. His work as an assistant coach has been praised however, and at just 45 would give the Panthers an up-and-coming option behind the bench.
Florida has also been linked to University of Denver head coach Jim Montgomery, former Montreal Canadiens bench boss Michel Therrien and other assistants around the league like Phil Housley and Bob Boughner.
The Florida Panthers were expected to do far better this past season than they ultimately did. Not unlike their Floridian rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, many were looking to this franchise to dominate a week Atlantic division. Looking back on a season with a coaching change, losing streaks, an lots of turmoil, how does the team recover and adjust their roster going forward?
Florida’s offensive core as of this moment consists of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck, with Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, and the surprising Jonathan Marchessault feeling content in their roles. Their defensive core is essentially just Aaron Ekblad, with a decent if unremarkable group surrounding him. Keith Yandle has looked adequate but nowhere near worth his $6.35 MM contract, locked in until 2023. Unfortunately, that contract looks like an albatross that is there to stay. Jason Demers was solid if unremarkable, and the group as a whole struggled with consistency. With Thomas Vanek likely to look for a payday elsewhere, a declining Jaromir Jagr, and a brutal internal cap, it bodes questioning whether Florida will be able to compete for a playoff spot next season. Their youngsters performed above offensive expectations, with the notable exception of Huberdeau. Barkov, Trocheck, and Marchessault all broke 50 points. Yet the team still finished 14 points out of the playoffs, giving up .46 more goals than they scored in an average 60 minute game.
Florida needs to spend a moderate amount of money to acquire solid 3rd-line point producers. Minor league callups can fill the gaps on the fourth line to an extent, but rolling with only two viable offensive forward groups is a recipe for disaster in today’s NHL. They absolutely need a game-changer up front to provide run support for the young core. They might also look to bolster their D. Here are some potential targets the Panthers should consider for 2017-18, instead of spending precious dollars on the fading Jagr:
F – Ilya Kovalchuk – UFA/KHL
As mentioned by colleague Holger Stolzenberg, Ilya Kovalchuk is a definite possibility for Florida. They have the cap space to accomodate the sort of money he will be looking for, and they have a talented young group that could easily compete for a playoff run given the right moves. There are few players more dynamic with the puck on their stick than Kovalchuk. His savvy and remarkably consistent point production would be tailor made for the Panthers team in need of a true #1 threat as Barkov continues to progress. Jagr is that no longer, but replacing his insight and experience would be difficult to do. Kovalchuk hits all the checks in terms of need for Florida, and would help launch them back into the playoff conversation single-handedly.
D – Dmitry Kulikov – UFA
Kulikov had an absolutely awful season for the Buffalo Sabres, but he would be a very cheap reclamation project for his old stomping ground. He didn’t exit the Panthers with a good performance, either, posting only 17 points in 2015-16 and a terrible 46.8 Corsi For Percentage. Kulikov had one year remaining with the Sabres at $4.3 MMl, and posted a 5 points and a -26 through 47 games. And yet, he was part of the group that propelled the team into the post-season and a Game 7 that could’ve gone either way. He’s a smooth skating 26 year-old defenseman who moves the puck with a decent offensive hockey IQ. He makes mistakes in his own zone, but he pushed the pace of the game in a way that is difficult to replace. His contract would be dirt-cheap and there is always the possibility he finds his groove back in the Sunshine State.
F – Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
Matt Duchene is another talented player who had a truly down year. Duchene was rumored to be moved for months, but come deadline, GM Joe Sakic didn’t find the pieces he was looking for. In Florida, there is a definite fit if the Panthers are willing to take the risk. They have the defensive pieces the Avalanche would want in return, and Duchene would provide another dynamic offensive force to a struggling offense. Sakic is almost certain to pull the trigger eventually, so the Panthers GM will simply need to be persistent. Duchene can set up plays with the best of them when he is on his game. His speed and infectious energy would also fit in well with the group of youngsters down south.
F – Justin WIlliams – UFA
WIlliams is almost certain to be a top commodity in a weak UFA class. However, his wealth of playoff experience would come in quite handy for this team and hasn’t showed signs of slowing down. He would add an element of grit to the lineup, as well, rounding out their offense. He would be a wonderful mentor for the likes of Barkov, Trochec, and oothers. He can slot up and down the roster and is practically a lock to score at least 20 goals as a 35 year-old. If the Panthers find their way into the first round, a player of his mold would be certainly welcome in close contests. The main obstacle to this getting done is of course the price, which may prove too steep for a team in rebuild, low-cost mode. He also could want term at this stage of his playing career, and that could be a risky proposal if longer than 2 or 3 years.
With the conference championships underway, we’re left with just four teams remaining in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. For the rest, they can take a look at the major trades made up to and on March 1st this year and gauge whether they were a mistake or a success. It’s somewhat of a mixed bag this year, with no deadline acquisition fueling their team to postseason dominance and no scapegoat whose underwhelming performance is to blame for an epic collapse. With that said, over two months later, it is safe to say that there were some clear winner and loser trades at the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline.
Winner: Anaheim Ducks – Patrick Eaves
Eaves has quietly been one of the most consistent contributors in the NHL this season and that did not change when he moved from the Dallas Stars to the Ducks ahead of the deadline. A versatile, two-way winger, Eaves has fit in well in Anaheim as is the lone major deadline addition who is still playing in the conference championships. After scoring 37 points in 59 games with the Stars, about .63 points per game, he registered 14 more in the final 20 regular season games for the Ducks, boosting his scoring to .7 points per game down the stretch in his new home. He even has two goals and two assists in seven playoff games, despite battling injuries. Anaheim may be down 1-0 in their pursuit of the Campbell Bowl and a Stanley Cup berth and their postseason success has bumped the price for Eaves up from a 2017 second-round pick to a first-rounder, but with a one in four chance at a title and a chance to re-sign Eaves, the Ducks cannot be more pleased with how this deal has played out thus far.
Loser: Minnesota Wild – Martin Hanzal
A team that is not so happy with their first-round investment is Minnesota. The Wild had been one of the best teams in the league all season long when they surprised many by acquiring one of the top trade deadline targets in Hanzal. The power forward performed admirably post-trade, putting up half as many points as his season total in Arizona in less than half as many games, 26 in 51 versus 13 in 25. He even added a playoff goal. However, his time in the playoffs, by no fault of his own, was much shorter than expected. The Wild were upset by the St. Louis Blues in five games and just like that they’re Stanley Cup hopes were gone. Falling so short despite high expectations makes the cost of adding a piece that didn’t matter much more difficult to swallow. Minnesota owes the Arizona Coyotes a top pick this season and a second-rounder next season plus another conditional pick and prospect, with little to show for the price.
Winner: New York Rangers – Brendan Smith
While the Rangers were underwhelming in their semi-final series against the Ottawa Senators, one many expected them to win, their exit is still not all that surprising given their status as a wildcard seed. Helping them to upset the Montreal Canadiens in Round One and take the Senators to six games was deadline acquisition Smith. While some initially mocked the deal – a 2018 second-round pick and 2017 third-round pick for a defenseman with just five points – Smith proved to be an excellent fit in New York. He scored four points in 18 games with the Rangers and also played better in his own end, earning him more play time. A disappointing start to the season in Detroit for the career-Red Wing quickly turned into a career revival with impressive play for his new squad. The postseason brought yet another four points and continued high-level play for Smith. Unfortunately, perhaps his worst game as a Ranger came in the elimination loss to the Senators when he was exposed on defense multiple times. Yet, in the big picture he was a success in New York. There is no word yet on whether there is mutual interest between both sides in an extension, especially since the Rangers carry many expensive blue line contract, but regardless this deal has to be considered a win for the Blueshirts.
Loser: Los Angeles Kings – Ben Bishop
Bishop may be happily settling in to his new home in Dallas after signing a nice six-year deal, but his time in Los Angeles did little to help him secure that contact. The Kings and the keeper were strange bedfellows to begin with, as now ex-GM Dean Lombardi traded red-hot backup goalie Peter Budaj, 2015 second-round defenseman Erik Cernak, and a 2017 seventh-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Bishop, just as starter Jonathan Quick was returning to health. The Kings needed scoring, not better goaltending, if they wanted to make the playoffs, but ended up with neither from the Bishop trade as he picked up only two wins in seven appearances with L.A. and posted just a .900 save percentage. The Kings finished 10th in the Western Conference and eight points out of a playoff spot, not even all that close to a berth, and now need to find a new backup goalie for 2017-18. The Bishop trade makes as little sense now as it did then and undoubtedly figured in to Lombardi’s firing.
Winner: Boston Bruins – Drew Stafford
The Bruins may have lost in the first round of the playoffs, but they likely wouldn’t have if four of their six starting defenseman didn’t miss all or most of the series. Even with those major injuries, the Ottawa Senators still had a difficult time eliminating the Bruins and Stafford was a thorn in their side with two goals and consistent two-way contribution. Add in four goals, matching his total earlier in the season with the Winnipeg Jets, and four assists in 18 regular season games as well as an outstanding +8 rating, and Stafford was an excellent addition for Boston. Acquired for just a sixth-round pick, Stafford was easily the steal of the trade deadline and ongoing talks of an extension would only add more value to a shrewd deal by GM Don Sweeney.
Loser: Florida Panthers – Thomas Vanek
Vanek was having a great season for the Detroit Red Wings when the Trade Deadline rolled around. He had 38 points in 48 games and was sniping with accuracy unseen over the past five years. When the Florida Panthers struck a deal to acquire that level of talent for just a 2017 third-round pick and struggling prospect Dylan McIlrath, there was a consensus that they had won the trade considering the affordable cost. Yet, the counter to that argument was that, even if he maintained the same rate of production, Vanek alone was likely not enough for the Panthers to make the playoffs. In the end, that proved to be true. Vanek’s scoring dropped off to just two goals and ten points in 20 games and his shooting percentage fell almost ten points, but even if it hadn’t, the Panthers wouldn’t have qualified for the postseason. They finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, 14 points shy of a playoff spot. At the end of the day, acquiring the impending free agent and missing the playoffs by that much was simply a waste of a third-round pick for a team that is still building.
Loser: New York Islanders – No One
The idea that you can’t lose at the Trade Deadline if you don’t make a deal is incorrect. Case in point: the 2016-17 Islanders. New York ended up missing the postseason by just one point and their playoff hopes were alive up to the final day of the season. Had the Isles made a trade, even a small one, that could have won them one more game down the stretch, they might have been a playoff team after all. Given their need to convince star John Tavares to stick around, the Islanders should have been more willing to do something – anything – to transform into a playoff team.
With a pair of long-term veterans in Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton slated to become unrestricted free agents in July and the team being ousted in the first round, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz suggests that the time is right for GM Doug Wilson to make a big splash this offseason.
For starters, Marleau and Thornton represent a little over $13.4MM in money potentially coming off the salary cap which opens up the type of payroll flexibility the team hasn’t had in quite some time. Kurz argues that while one or both could conceivably be brought back, the team would still be competitive but also wouldn’t be favored as a threat to be a Stanley Cup contender either.
The core of the Sharks has been together for quite some time but with those two potentially set to walk as well as new deals needed for goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic following 2017-18, the time may be right to shake things up in San Jose.
Elsewhere around the league:
- While Predators assistant coach Phil Housley is believed to be a candidate for Florida’s coaching vacancy, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel adds another name to the mix in Capitals associate coach Todd Reirden. The 45 year old Reirden has been with Washington for the past three years and before that, spent parts of seven seasons in Pittsburgh’s organization, three seasons at the minor league level and four with the big club. Former Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien as well as Denver University bench boss Jim Montgomery are also in the mix to replace Tom Rowe behind the bench.
- Kings defensive prospect Damir Sharipzianov has been loaned to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL for next season, the Russian team announced (link in Russian). The 21 year old recently completed the first season of his three year, entry-level contract but spent the full season in the minors, playing 38 games with Ontario of the AHL and ten more with ECHL Manchester. Although he won’t be with the Kings or a minor league affiliate, he will continue to count against their 50 contract limit for 2017-18.
In the continuing saga of Vladislav Gavrikov, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports that rumors of his signing in the KHL already are completely false. Dan Milstein of Gold Star who represents Gavrikov reiterated that no decision will be made on his future until after the World Championships are over.
Gavrikov is still just 21, and despite being drafted in the sixth round has developed into a legitimate NHL prospect. The young defender apparently has two KHL teams chasing him after his solid season for Yaroslavl. After already convincing Gabriel Carlsson to come over earlier this spring, the Blue Jackets could make another important addition to their defense pipeline with Gavrikov. While Team Russia spreads their ice time out fairly evenly, Gavrikov is used in tough defensive matchups and has been effective in the tournament. His future lies as a shutdown third-pairing player, though he still has time to develop even further.
- The Florida Panthers have met with Jim Montgomery from the University of Denver twice now, according to George Richards of the Miami Herald, and have booked a second interview with Michel Therrien as well. The club is still searching for their next head coach, and many believe that Nashville Predators assistant Phil Housley will be given a chance to interview before they make a decision. Housley of course is still working in the playoffs as Nashville is off to the Western Conference Finals for the first time. Montgomery and Therrien represent two very different directions for the club, showing that they’re looking in every direction for their next bench boss. Therrien has 814 games of head coaching experience in the NHL, while Montgomery—and in the same vein Housley—has none.
- Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Martin Brodeur will not continue as goalie coach for the Blues next season, instead returning to his post as assistant general manager. The team will hire a new coach who will hopefully be able to continue the work Brodeur did with Jake Allen in the second half. When the Blues fired Jim Corsi—the man the divisive Corsi stat was named after—along with Ken Hitchcock on February 1st, Allen held a .895 save percentage and was the focus of much hand-wringing among those watching the team. Following Brodeur and Ty Conklin taking over coaching duties, Allen posted a .928 save percentage (including playoffs) and was key in the Blues turnaround. Conklin, previously the goaltender development coach, will surely be in the running to take over the job full-time.
According to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, Jim Montgomery will interview a second time with the Florida Panthers for their head coaching vacancy. Montgomery has four years left on his contract at the University of Denver, and according to Chambers the school is doing everything it can to attempt to retain him.
After firing Tom Rowe at the end of the season, GM Dale Tallon and the Panthers’ front office have been looking at several different names to possibly fill the position. San Jose Sharks assistant Bob Boughner has been linked, as has veteran coach Michel Therrien. Pierre LeBrun of TSN recently reported that the team is also waiting for some of the assistant coaches still working in the playoffs to finish their seasons. Those could include people like Nashville assistant Phil Housley, Ottawa assistant Marc Crawford or Pittsburgh assistant Rick Tocchet.
Instead though, Montgomery will apparently come in for a second visit after initially meeting with the team on April 26th. Fresh off an NCAA National Championship with DU, Montgomery is among the hottest coaching prospects in the country at the moment. Interestingly, Chambers notes that several players including Henrik Borgstrom, Florida’s first-round pick from last summer, would consider turning pro if Montgomery were to leave. Will Butcher, the reigning Hobey Baker award winner was originally recruited by Montgomery and has spent his entire career under the coach. Butcher will become a free agent in August of this year should he not reach an agreement with the Colorado Avalanche.
For several reasons, Montgomery might be an excellent coach for the Panthers going forward but he doesn’t come without his warts. Despite playing 122 games in the NHL, he’s never worked as a coach in the league at any level, as he headed into the college ranks as soon as his playing career had ended. While he coached the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints for three years—winning two championships thanks in part to a young Johnny Gaudreau—he’s never coached in a professional league.
While the rest of the hockey world was talking yesterday about the latest concussion suffered by Sidney Crosby, Pierre LeBrun of TSN tweeted out an interesting note about the Florida Panthers’ coaching search. The venerable hockey insider reports that the Panthers have asked for and received permission from the San Jose Sharks to interview Bob Boughner for their vacancy. LeBrun adds that they also may be after assistant coaches still working in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with teams that have yet to be eliminated.
Boughner, one may remember, was a candidate for the Colorado Avalanche job last summer after Patrick Roy left the team in August, a job that eventually went to Jared Bednar who had been coaching in the AHL. Boughner just completed just his second year with the Sharks, after a lengthy tenure with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Joining Windsor in 2006, he quickly turned around a franchise that had been to just one Memorial Cup in its history and never won the CHL tournament. Within four seasons, Boughner had led the team to back-to-back championships while guiding young players like Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis to greatness. It earned him a spot on the Columbus Blue Jackets bench as an assistant coach for one season before returning to the Spitfires in 2011.
While Boughner doesn’t have any experience as a head coach at the professional level, he is considered an up-and-coming option that will eventually get an opportunity somewhere, and comes with a much different marketing spin than other “old guard” options like Michel Therrien or Lindy Ruff. Other assistants that may be of interest fall into both of these categories, like the experienced Marc Crawford from Ottawa or inexperienced assistant Phil Housley from Nashville.
While many have expected the Florida Panthers to go with a new face for their next coaching job, Eric Engels of Sportsnet now reports that a familiar name has surfaced. Michel Therrien is among the candidates for the head coaching vacancy, though there is no word on how far into the process the team is. Engels clarifies that Therrien shouldn’t be considered the leading candidate for the job, just that he’s on GM Dale Tallon’s “list”.
Therrien of course was dismissed by the Montreal Canadiens earlier this year, and would thus would require permission to speak to. It would be hard to imagine the Canadiens not granting it though, even for a division rival. Therrien was in the midst of a four-year contract extension that would have kept him in Montreal through 2018-19, but was replaced by Claude Julien mid-season. Julien had just been fired by the Boston Bruins, who allowed the Habs to hire him almost immediately.
Despite Therrien’s excellent 406-303-105 coaching record with Montreal and Pittsburgh, he’s only taken a team to the Stanley Cup Finals once and never won hockey’s biggest prize. While he has been respected in the game for many years, he also has been said to have somewhat of a shelf-life not unlike many other fiery bench bosses around the league. With a team like Florida, it would be an interesting fit for a team that has a mix of youth and veterans vying for playing time.